The Ethical Barometer

Archive for the 'Data and Studies on Ethics' Category

The Paper Mate Survey on Why We Take Pens From Our Co-Workers

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

78% — it was an accident
22% I did it on purpose.

Good to know. Batten down those Bics, Mont Blancs, and gel clickers. They are on the prowl.

Playing Online While At Work

Monday, July 18th, 2011

A GSN Digital survey finds that 35% of us play games online while at work. However, 53% of those who play do so only during their lunch hours. And 47% say they play throughout the work day.
The Barometer wonders what the job demands of the 47% are that their schedules are so gaming flexible.

On Loyalty – What Price? What Benefits?

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The Barometer’s students often explain that they are not entirely forthright during their job interviews. They expect to move on withint a few years from their “starter” jobs, but, say they, “We always tell the recruiter how we plan to be a lifer.” Their theory is that they can make more money by job-hopping and taking the next better offer. Wait, just a moment. What about the ethical issues here?

Never mind the ethics – sometimes ROI (i.e., those numbers) supports the ethical choice and back up the ethical value of loyalty. The students’ theory on how to make more money may be just that – theory. New studies indicate that loyalty does have significant ROI for employees. The work of Kathryn Shaw of Stanford and her colleagues indicates that the bulk of wage growth among 50,000 software employees comes from staying with one employer, not through job-hopping. Those with single employer experience had wage growth of about 8% per year whereas the job-hoppers averaged about 5% per year. Dr. Shaw found similar results with a different level of worker (windshield installers). “Reaching for the Stars: Who pays for Talent in Innovative Industries?” (with Fredrik Andersson, Matthew Freedman, John Haltiwanger, Julia Lane), 119 Economic Journal 308-332 (2009).

Loyalty has its benefits in sports. The Miami Heat could tell a tale or two about that, with LeBron serving as narrator, but the Wall Street Journal’s football statistician has the data to show loyalty matters. While players may perform better for the first year after they hop to a different team, players who stay with a team for five years or more actually have better statistical performances. Shirley S. Wang, “A Healthy Dose of Loyalty,” Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2011, p. D1.

Other research points to benefits for companies that retain employees – creativity doesn’t come from new blood. Creativity comes from established teams whose members are comfortable enough with each other to go out on a limb with the brainstorming process. Work to retain employees. Those pay raises halt the wandering eye and tempting interviews. Raises have ROI: enhanced creativity.

The Truth About Social Networking: We Lie

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

USA Today has some interesting thoughts on our social networking, namely that we lie.  When asked how honest they were on their social networking sites, folks responded as follows:

Totally honest                                                 31%

Fib a little                                                       26%

Flat-out lie                                                      22%

Total fabrication                                             21%

The Barometer would just like to know the difference between flat-out lies and total fabrications. 

January 3, 2011, p. 1A.

What would the world look like if we had no traffic signals?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Look here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9mzfN5i7ds

However, we would all have to wait our turn and be considerate of others, something the Brits seem to have within them.  Ever try to merge onto a freeway here in the U.S.?

Justice and Pilfering: Curbing Employee Theft

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

In tough economic times, employers keep a closer eye on expenses.  They watch that bottom line and they cut out office parties, employee discounts, and other perks.  In tough economic times, employees steal more from their employers.  They do so because they lost their parties, discounts, and perks.  Worse, it is the most trusted employees who bump up those travel expenses just a bit and pocket office supplies for use at home.  What does the pilferer look like?  According to a Price Waterhouse study:

Average length of employment:     7.5 years

Average age:                                           Between the ages of 31 and 40

Gender                                                       88% male

Education                                                 38% hold a college degree

                                                                      12% hold a postgraduate degree

Monitoring does not do the trick.  About 20% of companies are doing more audits of employee expenses and office supply inventory. Another 17% are adding security measures, including monitoring.  However, emphasizingthe code of conduct, integrity, and honesty do have a substantial impact.  We all need the reminders. And we seem to be deterred when we are given that nudge toward ethics.

Moral Babies

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

On May 9, 2010, Yale psychologist Dr. Paul Bloom had an intriguing article in The New York Times Magazine, “The Moral Life of Babies.”  If this brief excerpt does not pique your curiosity or restore your faith in human nature, well, you may be unmovable.

Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet (more…)

Patients Swiping from Hospitals

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Hospital swiping: 64% of hospital patients and family members take towels, linens, and pillows from patient rooms. Now, one-third of the patients in hospitals are not paying for their stays there, so a hospital stay is actually a revenue-producing event for one-third of hospital patients in the United States. Perhaps “thou shalt not steal” applied to patients is a partial answer to the “how to pay for health care” query.

VHA Inc., survey of 100 hospital supply executives, March 2010

90% of employees believe they are amongst the top 10% of the performers in their company

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Somewhere amongst self-esteem, performance evaluations, annual reviews, and reality, a disconnect the size of the San Andreas fault has befallen working adults.  We expect this kind of response from our youth because, well, we brought them up to believe not just that they were all above average but that they were all worthy of homogenous praise for their talents and a winning season. Everyone gets a trophy at the Chuck E. Cheese sports banquets, those events at which tokens swarm the game slots like bees after Pepsi spills on a national park trash can swing lid.  Under this system, the kid who can’t land a token in a slot with direct contact has pitching talent equal to that of The Big Machine, Randy Johnson. The Barometer wonders, whatever happened to telling kids and employees the truth? (more…)

Milgram Shocks Again

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Professor Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University has finally put the doubts to rest.  Many psychologists have maintained for 40 years that the 1963 Stanley Milgram studies could never be repeated with the same results.  Milgram was the Yale psychology professor who had confederates pose as learners who were to be given electric shocks by study participants when they gave wrong answers.  (You Ghostbusters fans have seen Bill Murray do the experiment as “poor scientist” Dr. Peter Venkman.) The confederate learners feigned pain with each shock the participants thought they were administering. The participants, who often looked around for reassurance, were told by a lab-coated supervisor to keep going. 80% of Milgram’s participants went to 150-volts of shock, despite the cries of pain.  Milgram also had 65% take the shocks up to 450 volts.  Professor Burger had 70% of his participants take the shocks up to 150 volts.  We do follow orders.  The Barometer teaches students about Milgram’s and Burger’s work because it helps them understand that, on occasion, saying “No!” to authority figures is important.  That “No” applies to orders to cook books, pay bribes, and sell air to investors, actions that can produce pain as stunning as electric shocks. 

74% of employees saw unethical conduct at work in 2008: New KPMG Survey

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

One of the Big Four accounting firms, KPMG, has just released the results of a survey of 5,000 employees at various types of organizations who work at all levels of those organizations.  The 74% level is the same as the 2005 level and comparable to the 76% level in 2000.  The employees also said that the misconduct they observed was motivated by the pressure to “do whatever it takes” to get results.  Half of the employees also said that if the public knew of the ethical breaches they had observed, it would cause them to lose trust.  That figure was 60% for banking and finance organizations.   

90% Cheating Rate Among High School Students, But We Can Teach Them Better

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Suppose that copying test answers, using crib sheets, copying someone else’s homework, plagiarism, and teaming up on work when you should be flying solo are included in the definition of cheating. In this day and age, one must define cheating because to some students copying someone else’s answers during a test would be research, not cheating.  Suppose further that you asked 25,000 high school students if they had ever engaged in “cheating.”  You would get a whopping 90% saying, “Duh, yes!”  Dr. Donald McCabe of Rutgers has been keeping score, as it were, on cheating since 1963.  The rate of overall cheating has tripled. Copying from others’ answers on tests has doubled from 26% to 52%.  Crib-sheet use on exams has climbed from 6% to 27%.  But Dr. McCabe and Dr. Jason Stephens of the University of Connecticut are not prophets of gloom.  They have fixes, and they work.  (more…)

Ferreting Out Fraud

Monday, October 27th, 2008

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has given us some insight into uncovering fraud in companies.  First factoid:  Nearly one-half of the fraud cases were uncovered purely serendipitously.  Second factoid: Another 46% were uncovered by tips from employees.  So much for the heavy hand and success rate of SOX 404 requirements and internal controls.  The Barometer once again reminds all:  The single best source for uncovering financial fraud is your employees.  Put all your effort into tapping into their knowledge base. Work on getting what they know to those in your organization who can take action.  Protect those employees who throw down the flag.  Indeed, recognize and reward employees who do the right thing.  For more info on the insights of this new study go to www.asfe.org.  For more information on tapping into what those employees know and how they can help, see Marianne M. Jennings, “The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse.”  

Settle Up; Don’t Fight

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

A study published in Columbia Business Law Review teaches an important principle when it comes to personal injury suits brought against businesses:  Pay early and pay less.  The study shows that the savings per claim average is $114,000 and for severe injuries the average is $670,000.  Likewise, savings on lawyer fees average $32,000 (and $211,000 for severe injuries).  The study, done by Professor Jeffrey O’Connell (Virginia School of Law) and Associate Professor Patricia Born (Cal State Northridge), looked at settlements between 1988 and 2004 in Texas and Florida.  There is a risk for businesses in taking these cases to a jury.  The good professors’ work, ” The Cost and Other Advantages of an Early Offers Reform for Personal Injury Claims Against Business, Including for Product Liability,” can be found at 2008 Col. Bus. L. Rev. 423.  

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